How does the iPad perform?

According to Steve Jobs, a device that sits between the laptop and the smart phone must be better than either at several key tasks. So how does the iPad perform in these all important fields?

Web browsing

iPad's Safari is very similar to the iPhone's, though it obviously benefits from a bigger screen. It doesn't support Flash. Like all the apps on iPad, Safari makes use of 'popovers' – menus that look half way between OS X menus and drop-down lists. An example of popover is in the image from Mail on the right.

Email

iPhone users will find iPad's Mail app very familiar, but there are a few enhancements. When viewing in portrait mode, your inbox is displayed in a popover window, floating over the email you currently have open. Rotate the device to a landscape orientation and it's added as a permanently visible sidebar.

Pressing Compose gives you a virtual keyboard that's almost life-sized in landscape mode. The iPhone's much lauded auto-correct feature is retained in the iPad Mail app too.

Maps

The iPad's Maps application is very similar to the iPhone's. By default the classic street plan is displayed, but you can easily switch to a satellite view, a hybrid of the two or the new terrain view showing hills and valleys, which is found on the Google Maps website but not the iPhone's Maps.

maps

Integration with Google Streetview is again implemented, and it's far more usable on the iPad's larger screen.

Photos

Like the iPhone app, Photos lets you flick through your snaps by swiping your finger over the screen. Open pictures can once again be manipulated using Gestures. The iPad application displays albums as stacks of photos.

photos

Tap or pinch to open the stack and look for specific photos. Syncing with your Mac retains Faces, Places and Events information from iPhoto, and you can also view a slideshow set to music.

Movies

Video viewing is a key feature with the iPad. The original YouTube application has been revamped, making it easier to navigate. But there's also a dedicated video viewing application; you don't have to watch your films and home movies through the iPod feature.

movies

Video files are divided into movies, TV shows and music. Select a movie and you're invited to pick a chapter, or watch from the beginning. Selecting a television show brings up a list of available episodes, and tapping the screen toggles between full screen and widescreen modes. With no buttons or controls to get in the way of the video, you can really immerse yourself in the on-screen action.

Music

iPad includes iPod functionality, as well as full access to the iTunes Store. Making good use of the larger screen, navigating through your music feels more akin to the Mac's iTunes than the iPhone's iPod app. Albums are displayed in a grid, and clicking on an individual album gives you a floating window listing its songs.

Calendar

Calendar is far more accessible on the iPad. Taking its lead from OS X's iCal, the extra screen space allows individual event titles to be displayed in the Month view, instead of entries being indicated by a dot under the date. Weekly, daily and list views are also available, and the application can be navigated in portrait or landscape orientation.

Contacts

The iPad Contacts app is designed to look just like a paper address book.

contacts

Your contacts list is shown on the left-hand page, with the currently selected entry displayed on the right.

Games

The iPad offers exciting opportunities for games developers. Existing iPhone games will of course run on an iPad, but the larger form factor allows for a greater degree of interaction with the touch screen, meaning games will be specifically written for the iPad.

For example, Gameloft's first-person shooter N.O.V.A. – demoed at the iPad launch event – benefits from an overhauled interface. To select a weapon you drag its icon onto the fire button, a feature that would be space-prohibitive on the tiny iPhone. An expandable on-screen map has been added too, taking even more advantage of the larger screen.

games

Long-time iPhone supporter Electronic Arts demoed an iPad version of its popular racing game Need for Speed Shift. You can now switch to an in-car view by tapping on the vehicle. Mirrors have also been added; touch them to switch to a rear view.

These developments have been achieved in just a couple of weeks, building on already-existing iPhone games. Just imagine what will be possible over time…

Ebooks

One of the iPad's key selling points is its new iBooks application that includes an iTunes-like online store where you can purchase and download ebooks. Books purchased through iBooks are displayed on an attractive virtual bookshelf. Just tap a cover to open it. Hold the iPad in Portrait mode to display a single page, or turn it sideways to show two facing pages.

books

Graphically it looks just like a physical book, with the edges of the cover visible around the pages' perimeter and a shadow in the centre as they bend into the spine. To turn a page, just tap the side of the screen. Like most ebook readers, you can adjust the text size, but with iPad, you can also change the font.

Five of the world's largest publishers are already on board; HarperCollins, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan and Hachette Book Group. More are sure to follow in the near future.

iPhone apps

According to Apple, "virtually every one" of the 140,000 applications is already available in the App Store function on the iPad. At the time of writing it hasn't elaborated on which ones won't work, though anything requiring telephony or a camera are obviously not iPad-friendly at this time.

An iPhone/iPod touch application can be run with "pixel-for-pixel accuracy" in a window the size of the iPhone's screen. Alternatively, they can be scaled to fill the iPad's viewing area using a technique called pixel doubling.

A new version of the iPhone Software Development Kit (SDK) has been released for programmers to tailor their applications specifically for the iPad, taking full advantage of the large touchscreen display.

But perhaps most interesting is that Apple's iWork applications have been reimagined for the iPad. Mobile versions of Keynote, Pages and Numbers are compatible with OS X's iWork '09 and Microsoft Office, and are sold individually for just $10 each, which is around £5.90. This is welcome and aggressive pricing from Apple.

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First published in MacFormat Issue 219

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